Olympic Fever

14 Sep

The London 2012 Games. What did they mean to you? For me, they snuck up and went before I realised. It’s hard to believe it has all just ended when it was announced 7 years ago.

Whilst the nation was celebrating, we were all unaware of how tragic the next day’s events would be after the jubilation. Up until I watched a documentary about 7/7, earlier this year, I had no idea that London was announced as the host of the 2012 Games the night before. In a cruel twist of fate, or what one survivor has said was meant to be, Martine Wright is an inspiration. She was out celebrating and got a later train the next day. The unimaginable happened with many people’s lives changing forever.

It wasn’t until the end of the documentary that I realised Martine was a double amputee. She has shown strength and has turned what some people would see as a nightmare into new beginning. She represented Great Britain in seated volleyball.

Many other Paralympic athletes competed with a variety of stories, although why they weren’t equally represented in the coverage is a travesty. I’m sure there are many reasons to do with advertising that Channel 4 could not avoid showing it. In my opinion it should have had the same presence on BBC One as the Olympics did. By having interrupted coverage, it appeared to me it was classed as second best. I’m sure that more people would have watched it had it been on BBC One. The adverts meant viewers missed key results and even the proud moment of seeing every country walk out.

However, this must not detract away from the fact that despite this, we put on a bloody good show! We showed how amazing our country is and what better way to encourage tourism than to show iconic locations in the events. I have never seen this country so patriotic and also as patriotic to other successful athletes from around the world. I was on the edge of my seat screaming at the telly for Mo to win and bouncing up and down on the sofa as he ran as I’m sure millions others were. The same can be said for the sheer fascination of watching Usain Bolt.

I know for a fact that the Games has definitely inspired me. This coupled with completing the 5k Great South Run and watching the main race last year. Seeing the crowds cheering for people they didn’t know was hugely motivating. Having caught the Olympic Fever I now can’t wait for the Great South Run, where this year, I’ll be one of the runners in the main event. It will be my turn to hear strangers I’ve never met cheering for me and keeping me going. I’m also doing this for personal reasons so if you see me in a British Heart Foundation vest, then show your support. I’m not aiming for a time – just to be able to run the whole race.

http://www.justgiving.com/Stephanie-Hall26

May Madness

16 Jun

What a rollercoaster of a month it has been. Everyone has one month in the year which is awash with birthdays and special dates and May is mine, but this one has been and gone in a whirlwind. Not only is my birthday in May, but its also when my granddad’s and two friend’s birthdays are as well as my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. Add on to that a wedding, where I was Maid of Honour and a hen do in Bournemouth and you get the picture.

Starting off with the wedding of my best friend, Kate. The day was truly gorgeous with the ceremony held at the beautiful Wentworth Church in Rotheram. The Bridesmaids walked down the aisle first, which in itself is probably one of the most-nerve wracking things I’ve done, god only knows how Kate felt, before made her rather speedy, blink and you’ll miss her, entrance. One of my favourite parts was when they sat down in front of us to hear a reading and her husband to be asked me if I was alright! I could have had a full blown conversation but thought it would be a little inappropriate.

Seeing two people who mean so much to you celebrate their love for each other is one of the greatest things in life. They laughed, they cried and I’m sure Jake walked away with a few red marks from Kate’s concrete grip!

We then went to the Millenium Gardens in Sheffield where, true to Kate, was decorated in pink. I also had the privilege of reading a speech, which I was informed, was the best of the night – WIN. I revealed that Jake had asked what I think Kate would say if he proposed and had to keep it a secret for over two months. That’s a feat in itself when we talk to each other on an almost daily basis. It transpired that Kate didn’t know I knew this that far in advance.

After that came Kerrie’s hen do which had a nautical theme as she is marrying a sailor at the end of June. A night in Bournemouth followed a day of Zorbing, which if you haven’t tried harness-style, is well worth a go. Warning – not suitable for people who don’t like getting dizzy or are sick on theme park rides. We then dressed up in varying interpretations of sailor-style before hitting the town and heading to Hawaiian-themed club, http://www.lolalobournemouth.com/

After a poor effort to not stay out past 1.30am, the same can’t be said for the hen, who to be fair, actually made it down to breakfast, although she sat there in her sunglasses the whole time!

Finally, the whirlwind, for May that is, ended in what was the best event of the month – my birthday. Yes, I know, I’m biased, but hey, it’s only once you can say you’re a quarter of a century! And no, the quarter-life crisis has not hit me yet.

After spending many a birthday in either Northampton (where I grew up) and Portsmouth (where I currently live) I wanted to go somewhere different. I’d had lots of nights out in London, Brighton and Bournemouth and it wasn’t until I went on a random lastminute.com (literally) trip to Cardiff that I decided that is where I would celebrate.

Cardiff has it all; amazing nightlife, fantastic shops, restaurants, bars and the hotels and train station are no more than 5 minutes apart. I have to recommend http://www.maldronhotelcardiffcity.com/. The rooms are stunning and you won’t ever want to leave the bathroom once you are under the power shower. It comes with Dove and Lux hand and body wash so your body is treated luxuriously before you head out.

Having said that, the shower waited until later as we had to get the party started early. Trains are direct from Portsmouth and with a rail card and advanced booking, it cost me just £15 to get there and back. Also, triple rooms are available at the hotel so my total came to the pricely sum of £45 – you can see another reason why Cardiff was the perfect destination to celebrate.

We arrived at 4pm and headed straight out to enjoy the blazing sun (this was the last hot weekend we had which now seems like a distant memory). Directly in front of the hotel is Mill Lane, where cocktails bars such as http://www.mockalounge.com/ and http://www.sodacardiff.com/ can be found. Soda was where we spent the afternoon and was probably the reason we didn’t exactly party as hard as we would have liked to in the evening.

Using the power of Twitter, I managed to blag free entry, even though we were shepherded straight up to pay until I piped up and ended up meeting the face behind their Twitter, who remembered me as the girl from Portsmouth – another win.

Most of the night was spent people watching, laughing at the townies trying to show off their money with Moet. Think waxed eyebrows and flexed muscles when holding their drinks and lots of dodgy dancing.

And with that thought, I’ll end the madness that has been May.

 

Loving Liverpool

20 Feb

Liverpool. Home of Scouse, Brookside, The Beatles and two football clubs, among other highlights. The buzzing city in the North West has so much to see and do. After  5 hour train journey from Portsmouth, I arrived at the Cocoon boutique pod hotel at the International Inn http://www.cocoonliverpool.co.uk/ for a Mother/Daugther weekend break. Located at the top of Renshaw Street, Cocoon it is the ideal base for any weekend stay. Be warned, the clue is in the name – there are no windows and no signal as it beneath ground level. For £25 pppn, you can’t really complain though.

As a bit of a shopaholic, I headed straight down to Livepool One – the shopping mecca. With it’s mix of high street, designer, boutique and home stores, there is something to suit every budget. The shops are open until 8pm every day which was ideal, even if I did buy the majority of my purchases from Primarni! After this, I headed for Victoria Street – a 5 minute walk from Liverpool One with its mix of well-known bars and a few random places. One of my favourites is the Sir Thomas Hotel with its big leather seats, red lighting and an excellent choice of cocktails.

Before I enjoyed the cocktails too much on an empty stomach, I headed back up towards the hotel and enjoyed a gorgeous Greek Mezze at Zorbas http://www.zorbasrestaurant.co.uk/, opposite the bombed-out St Luke;s Church. This included dips, pitta, vine leaves, squid and pickled Octupus – not something I’ll be trying again but at least I can say I have! This was followed by Moussaka and a selection of pork and lamb dishes. Even on an empty stomach I was stuffed so be prepared for a feast!

The next day was spent looking around the dock area. Steeped in maritime history, it has a lot of similarities with Portsmouth, although its redevelopment and architecture is much more stunning. Think a mix of post-modern with original Georgian buildings, including the famous Liver Birds building. This is opposite the Mersey Ferry, which I took a trip on, just because I could, and returned by the underground train. It’s the simple things I enjoyed. The best way to get around is to buy a Saveaway ticket, which looks like a scratchcard, from the travel shop for £4.70 and this includes journeys by bus, train or ferry in Merseyside. It takes 30 minutes on the ferry to get to Birkenhead, and just 5 on the underground.

Once the excitement of the journey had died down, I made my way over to the Museum of Liverpool which only opened last year. Its hard to believe this colossal museum is free. Over three floors, you can find out about the history of the city through key workers in the city, reflecting on how much it has changed, Sport, fashion, culture and how the city has come together through the ages. I only managed to see about a quarter of it in two hours, so be prepared to spend most of your day there if you want to experience it all.

After this, I made my way over to Albert Dock – famous for where This Morning used to be filmed. There is a Tate gallery which is free to enter, and various bars and restaurants. My favourite was Miller and Carter Steakhouse http://www.millerandcarter.co.uk/millerandcarteralbertdock/ just for its £3.95 cocktails everyday 4-8pm – can you sense a theme here? For foodies, Gusto http://www.gustorestaurants.uk.com/restaurants/gusto-liverpool is another favourite of mine along with Circo http://www.circoliverpool.com/ which is a treat for all the senses – particularly if you go to their Freakshow on the last Friday of the month.

Moving on to the night-time, I headed for the Chavasse Park area of Liverpool One and visited the exclusive Palm Sugar Lounge bar http://www.palmsugarlounge.co.uk/with its opulent decor. Be warned, its not cheap but its a must if you only visit the city once. From this, I saw a Thai restaurant through the bar called Chaophraya http://www.chaophraya.co.uk/venues/chaophraya-liverpool/. It takes your breath away as you enter and truly reflected the Orient. All of the food, which is from different regions of Thailand is cooked by Thai chefs. The staff couldn’t have been any more hospitable and ensured everything was satisfactory. I chose the a sharing platter which included Chicken Satay, Duck Spring Rolls and Dumplings. This was followed by a Green Thai Curry which just melted in the mouth.  All in all with a bottle of Prosecco the bill came to around £65 for two.

The fun-filled weekend didn’t stop there. On Saturday, I explored Bold Street, which is a mix of vintage stores, cafes and bars – very cosmopolitan. Soul Cafe http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/soul-cafe-liverpool is well worth a visit if you’re on a budget and serves a huge range of breakfast items and main meals.

My mission for the evening was to find the UK’s best venue, Alma De Cuba http://www.alma-de-cuba.com/. Set inside a stunning converted church, this is one venue you do not want to miss!  It’s gothic, dark interior is brightened by the thick candles, which is the main light source and original stained windows. You can still see the altar steps and imagine where the pews used to be. The Latin-inspired bar features Brazilian dancers at the weekend and an astonishing array of cocktails – the Chocolate Gateau is to die for. You will need to book in advance at the weekend if you wish to dine there. The seating is a balcony style overlooking the impressive former Catholic Church. If you can find it that is – you would never guess from the exterior, the impressiveness that is inside.

Another must-do venue, is Bistro Jacques http://www.bistrojacques.com/, a rustic, intimate French Restaurant, which was a two minute walk from the hotel on Hardman Street. The best steak I have ever tasted was from here so if you enjoy classic French dishes, or want to impress someone, this is the place to be. Afterwards, I continued the night at Hannah’s bar http://www.barhannah.co.uk/ which describes itself as Liverpool’s best kept secret. The music ranged through the decades and the clientele was a mix of all ages which reflected this.

Finally, the weekend came to and end, but not before a well-needed breakfast at Leaf on Bold Street http://www.thisisleaf.co.uk/#/on-bold-street/. The independent tea shop which is inspired by vintage, eclectic pieces, offers a range of teas and food to suit every palette. The Full English Breakfast is a must for £6.50. Pricey, but you can definitely taste the quality. This was washed down with a Turkish Apple tea and prepared me for the journey home.

Liverpool is an easily walkable city which is the best way to explore it as all of the places mentioned were found this way. If you do one thing this year, visit Liverpool and see how many Scouse Brows and girls walking round the city with rollers in their hair you can spot!

 

Summer Update

4 Aug

Hello one and all. Please forgive me for I have sinned. Having mentioned I wouldn’t leave updating my blog for so long, I appear to have done that in spectacular fashion.

The world of Education PR moves so rapidly that I’m thinking ahead to next year already and all the days seem to fly past before I know it.

Since my last post I’ve celebrated my birthday (a low-key affair compared to last year), been a graduate for a year, went on holiday to Cyprus and became a Godmother. I’d like to use this post to share my holiday with you and to look back on it in a few years with fond memories.

Cyprus – The Island of Love

It was my first time to Cyprus this year as I fancied a change of scene from my usual exploits in Spain and the Spanish Islands.  Cyprus guarantees good weather and I’ve heard great things from people who have visited it. Before you ask, no I didn’t rave it up in Ayia Napa, but went to Paphos on the West Coast of the island with my mother.

The hotel I stayed in was lovely – huge pool with water coming off rocks waterfall style and a lazy river. Sadly, due to a fire at the main power station, air-con was few and far between so for a paleton like me, it wasn’t great. Still, I’d much rather that then the crap weather we have here.

As I found my bearings, the first day was spent by the pool followed by learning some Cypriot dancing. Next, was more relaxing and meeting our rep where we booked a Blue Lagoon boat trip. This sounded lovely but with reference to my pale skin I was a little worried about burning, and, yep, you’ve guessed it, I burnt spectacularly. Whilst I religiously slapped on the Hawaiian Tropic, and swam in the gorgeous clear blue sea, I returned to find the middle part of my forehead had formed a lump like a klingon. Burnt red and soft, I did actually think it would burst into a huge blister. I had visions of returning with a permanently bright red forehead or soft lump that would never go away.

Fortunately, I’d booked a Jeep trip to the mountains which was the day after so I could recover. The jeep was pretty rickety and shared with a Flemish family as our East End boy Terry, the driver for the day, made the ascent a great experience. I learnt so much about the island and had no idea of the sad history involved. In short, the Turkish invaded the North of the island, the wealthy Cypriots who lived there fled to shacks in the South of the island and the Turkish took over their homes. They are still refusing to move so any mention of Turkey is frowned upon. There is even a border across the island which you need your passoport to cross. Famagusta, one of the places invaded, is a ghost town. Houses stand empty with possessions garnering dust. Cars remain where they were left and there is no sign of any soul who has been in the area for years.

As we continued our ascent, we learnt that the villages are steeped in deep tradition where there are men only cafes, couples aren’t allowed to even hold hands, and if a woman’s husband dies, she must always wear black and not marry or date another man.

Lunch was in a gorgeous taverna and we stopped off at various photo opportunity locations, which came after a hardcore drive on a dirt track and a stop at a river with magic ice cream. Once we had reached the viewpoint of the mountains, we began our descent and stopped off in a village to buy some traditional Cypriot products and look at Aphrodite’s Rock.

In the evening we went to the harbour for some cocktails and to sample the relaxed lifestyle away from the neon lights of Bar Street (the main party street). We did this for about three evenings and spent the rest of the days chilling by the pool,  a trip to the waterpark and explored the harbour in daylight.

For anyone thinking of going to Cyprus, I would recommend it highly. The food is gorgeous, the locals are welcoming and there is so much to see and do. If you’re into culture, history and geography, then you will fall in love with it.

Strictly Make-Up

9 May

Now, whilst this isn’t about work/reporting, this post will demonstrate my one-off moonlighting as a beauty blogger.

I feel that I must share with you some key new products on the market  and cheaper alternatives to well-known brands as its unfair to keep this to myself.

First up – Barry M Nail Effects. This amazing black  nail varnish goes on top of another colour and then as it dries, it starts to crack creating what a colleague thought was actually Minx nails. For £3.99 you can have this effect. One word of advice – it doesn’t really work with dark colours underneath so wear it with on-trend pastel colours. There is also a pale pink version so try a dark colour underneath, paint this on and watch magic happen!

Take advantage of Boots’ offer of 3 for 2 on all cosmetics at the moment as the next two products were within it. As a fan of eyeliner, I wanted to try out the new  eyeliner by Maybelline – Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner – which is said to last for 24 hours. It comes in a handy tub and includes a professional brush. It took me a few goes to get it right as you only need a very thin amount on the brush but this is dependent on what look you want to achieve. Now I have glorious feline eyes! Perfect for day or night.

Next up is again, another product by Maybelline. Now I don’t know about you but I love trying out new products, and in particular, new mascaras. I’ve tried most of the brands but L’oreal’s Volume Million Lashes is by far the best for my light, short eyelashes. It lengthens and volumises and gives the effect of false eyelashes. Maybelline’s The One by One Volum’ Express mascara with 300 bristles  does just what L’oreal’s does and goes on beautifully. Immediately you can see the effects and have glamour puss babydoll eyes in an instant with this and the eyeliner.

Moving on to the cheaper end of the market and how the Northeners put us to shame. When I’ve visited friends up North I’ve found a number of products which are cheaper versions of more high-end brands. First up is Double Act by W7 for £.299, a version of  Benefit’s 10 blusher and bronzer which I found on a make-up stall in Barnsley’s Alhambra shopping centre, as well as a copy of their High Beam for £1.99 marketed as High Lights by Technic and available from Bodycare. The latter item is perfect for highlighting the brow bone, cheeks and cupid’s bow and gives you a gorgeous sheen. Both do exactly what their more expensive counterparts do and I am hugely impressed by them, but sadly,I’ve yet to see these in the South.

Finally, my must-have product which, again, only seems to be available up North, namely Barnsley and Leeds, is St Moriz – an instant self-tan brand. A snip at £3.99-4.99 depending if you want a mousse or spray. Like the name suggests, its a copy of St Tropez. If you’re unsure about it, start on a base tan or build up a colour with a self-tanning moisturiser as it comes out quite dark when you spray it on. At least you can see where its going though to stop those tell-tale streak signs – trust me, I’ve had them! Also, use a mitt as it stains hard and I should know – I’ve had the tangoed hands. The good thing with this is that is gives you a deep glow and not that orange look that I often see girls showing off.

Most of the cheaper brands you should be able to find on the Internet, and if you do find them in the Southern region, namely Hampshire, let me know. It saves a bulging suitcase and bulk buying every time I visit the North!

Ramblings of an occasional reporter

26 Apr

Hello, one and all and welcome to the brand spanking new blog of yours truly.

Since the road to the glittering heights of magazine journalism has changed, this blog will be an account of general observations and going-ons as well as various updates of my career in Media, PR and Marketing.

First up, a seven month account condensed just for you lucky reader.

Having now been in my job for seven and half months, I am loving it as much as the day I started. There’s always something different going on and no two days are the same. Since my last post, I’ve been on a Media and PR Conference which, fingers crossed, might help with something going national in the near future.

I was fortunate enough to meet several of the key industry reporters in education on that conference, my whole outlook and pitching style has vastly changed with much improvement, moving me on from student editor to press liaison and working with the ‘other side’ to gain coverage and understanding exactly what gets noticed in the media.

Reporting on college life and education PR is not something I would ever see myself doing this time last year when I was about to hand over my baby (my dissertation) to the powers that be and receive my degree in something relating to my current job. This, along, with my magazine experience, both at uni and in the commercial industry, helped me greatly in securing this position.

So whilst I’ve currently put to bed the second issue of ‘Good Terms’, the termly newsletter I’ve taken on, and taught myself InDesign in the process, there’s still much more to come.

We have events coming out of our derriere and before you know it, it will be that time again – GCSE and A-level results day – a huge event in any college’s calendar, don’t cha know? Oh, and somewhere I have to prepare for my appraisal, which is in, ooh, two months.

As you can see, a lot has occurred in that time – not to mention the end of one relationship and the start and end of another. But I’ll save that for another time. I promise not to leave it for seven months!